This is the third of a sequence of posts where we’ll take a look at a few of the main Linux distros to find out which are the most welcoming to Linux newbies. In our first article of this series we took a look at Fedora 9 Beta, the second article we spoke about openSUSE, and the third in the series was about Mandriva.
We’ll do this test with the live (Gnome) CD to analyze: parts of the hardware that are recognized, software package installed, general usability (setup adjustments, software installation). Computer tested specs: AMD Athlon 64 X2 3600, 2GB RAM, nVidia GeForce 6100.
Like the other main distros, Ubuntu’s live CD is extremely simple to use and quite fast to load the full Gnome desktop. But… once the desktop loaded I had the same screen problems I had with the other distros I tried (except Mandriva), the configuration was all wierd. Blame nVidia, blame Microsoft’s importance for hardware compliance, … all I know is that it wasn’t working. After the full installation and finding the correct drivers to install these problems do go away though. Also, embedded web videos aren’t displayed.
The desktop visual has the familiar Ubuntu style of orange. Ubuntu 8.04 (aka Hardy Heron) also packs all of the goodies of Gnome 2.22.
Monitor didn’t work too well. All of the rest worked like a charm: keyboard, bluetooth (I just got a bluetooth dongle), audio, webcam, and reading/writing to NTFS partitions of my HD. But, I’m aware that the video issue is corrected after the installation and that it isn’t working through the live CD because of issues with proprietary drivers.
The basic all-you-need package is present: Firefox, Transmission, Brasero, Pidgin, VNC, OpenOffice, GIMP, and quite a few others.
The huge “double thumbs-up” Ubuntu gets from me is their Add/Remove programs application. First, it packs hundreds and hundreds of options of programs you can install with just 2 clicks. Second, and most important is the stars placed beside the name for each application. A complete Linux newbie (like I was) wouldn’t know the majority of these programs and to see a ranking system based on feedback and usage is incredibly helpful. I was able to quickly find some very nice programs just by checking the options with five stars. It couldn’t be easier.
Ubuntu is a Debian based platform, so the options for programs that can be installed is huge and the installation process also can be very easy.
First impressions results?
I was quite pleased with this test. Ubuntu makes sure things are quite simple for the user, fast, and very resourceful. But, Ubuntu’s lack of proprietary drivers distribution gives a few first impression glitches that can scare users away. In my opinion, I would give Ubuntu 2 pinguins because of the issues with drivers, but the speed and very nice ease of use made me give Ubuntu three pinguins.
Just an idea, why not make a release by Canonical loaded with these proprietary drivers? Then, it would make the perfect distro.
Overall Mandriva is my favorite distro from these tests. I do have Ubuntu installed on my main computer but if I were to do a fresh install I would surely change. At least that is my personal opinion with the current releases tested so far.